As a digital reporter in a daily newsroom, time is often a luxury. Gone are the days of writing for a print deadline – readers today want their news on tablets, on smartphones, on computers and they want it now.
But because our news cycles move so quickly, it’s that much more important to invest time in professional development and to continually fine-tune our craft when the opportunity arises. I’m grateful to the Jack Webster Foundation for awarding me a 2019 Poynter Fellowship, which allowed me to visit the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. in April 2019 for the Summit for Reporters and Editors in Multi-platform Newsrooms.
Since my daily duties and priorities are focused on the digital aspects of our news coverage, my main goal in attending Poynter was to learn new strategies and digital tools for engaging with audiences and building loyal online readers. What I experienced was so much more.
A large focus of the six-day summit was to revisit the process of storytelling: from crafting a story pitch to editing. Jacqui Banaszynski led several workshops that reminded me just how much of journalism happens long before a reporter sits down to write. She detailed how beat maps can help a reporter understand and establish a beat, and how reader wheels and stakeholder wheels can help us look at a story from new angles. Jacqui also took us through the step-by-step process of breaking down large concepts into manageable stories and how single events can be blown up into big ideas.
Ren LaForme introduced us to a number of digital tools for both increasing productivity in the workplace and for use in telling stories digitally. It was encouraging to hear how much digital tools do matter and propel other newsrooms, and to see very clear examples of how my role as a digital reporter can support and impact the wider newsroom and its goals. I am currently testing a number of tools Ren suggested and plan to propose trial implementation for several in the coming months.
Editing and publishing my own reporting is a daily occurrence on the digital desk. Maria Carrillo’s workshop about editing on deadline was a great reminder of how important it is to make time to edit, even when there seems to be no time. She took us through a practical checklist of things to watch for while editing and reminded me of how important it is to “just let go” when editing a story. “Be passionate in pursuit of the story but be dispassionate as you edit” is something I will carry with me into all my future editing.
Beyond the workshops each day, my time at Poynter introduced me to journalists from across a range of backgrounds and newsrooms. It was encouraging to see that our challenges are universal but that our successes can be shared. I was both impressed and inspired by each person’s motivation to report, their eagerness to improve and the desire to better their newsrooms.
The experience I had at Poynter is something I would encourage every journalist I know to pursue. It was a humbling experience that pushed me to examine my weaknesses but also allowed me to see how those weaknesses could be improved. Even as I returned to work, the encouragement I found at Poynter has continued to influence the way I approach my role in the newsroom and I believe has changed my reporting for years to come.